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A Wrinkle in the Peace Process


Patrick Quinn and all his possessions line the curb outside Hunter's Meadow Apartments only minutes after losing his job.
  • Patrick Quinn and all his possessions line the curb outside Hunter's Meadow Apartments only minutes after losing his job.

When Patrick Quinn held up his Broadmoor paycheck on Friday and waved it in the face of a human resources employee, declaring it to be "a load of crap," the ramifications of his actions -- including a close encounter moments later with a Broadmoor security guard and the Colorado Springs police -- reverberated throughout the ranks of Irish employees at the five-star luxury resort.

Quinn was terminated immediately, and within a few hours, found himself sitting on the curb of his south Colorado Springs apartment complex atop suitcases and bags, contemplating an abrupt return to Ireland the following morning.

Quinn was a Walsh Visa employee, part of the Irish Peace Process Cultural and Training Program. The program, sanctioned by the federal government in 1998, will bring some 12,000 visiting workers over the next three years to the United States. Here, they will participate in jobs that, theoretically, will "help participants develop a business and cultural skill base which can attract international and private investments to their local economies and help promote the economic regeneration of Northern Ireland and the border counties of the Republic of Ireland."

A Broadmoor executive claims what happened to Quinn was an isolated incident.

But Quinn, who was evicted from his Broadmoor-leased apartment at the Hunter's Meadow complex on E. Cheyenne Road immediately upon losing his job, charged the program and the Broadmoor with less than philanthropic motives.

"I think they just want bodies to fill positions," he said.

The Walsh Visa program is administered in the United States by Virginia-based Logicon Corporation. Outside of Washington, D.C., Colorado Springs is principal hub of the program with 80 employees at the Broadmoor.

Quinn claimed his admittedly hot-tempered verbal altercation at the Broadmoor was exacerbated by an overzealous security guard who threatened to have him arrested, then went so far as to call police, but ultimately did not press charges. On Friday, four Broadmoor security guards stood around a vehicle in the parking lot of Quinn's apartment building until late in the afternoon after evicting him from his apartment.

A co-worker and fellow Irishman, who asked not to be named for fear of losing his job, agreed that security measures were intense.

"That one," he said, pointing to a particularly burly security guard, "told me 'if you go out there with him, we'll send you back to Ireland.' "

Making copies

Both Quinn and his friend had responded to ads in the Belfast Telegraph promising jobs in America to train workers in skills that would eventually help the faltering Irish economy. Quinn worked on the golf course maintenance crew at the hotel, and his friend performs miscellaneous office work, including making photocopies.

Both expressed concerns about the administration of the program, and questioned whether they would be able to advance or receive more pertinent training at the Broadmoor.

"[Logicon] promised us $1,500 to set up in America, but we only got $450," said Quinn. A deduction was made from the promised amount to purchase the furniture in their pre-furnished apartment, the value of which was to be divided three or four ways, depending on the number of roommates sharing the approximately 700-square foot lodging.

"We received three checks for $150 each," said Quinn's mate. "We were told the need [for the full fee] was greater in Washington because the cost of living is higher there."

Quinn complained about the number of deductions from his Broadmoor paycheck, including a $45 fee for shuttle service between the hotel and home, a uniform fee, and rent of $180. He also protested his working hours which had been moved back to start at 5:30 a.m., requiring him to take the 4:30 a.m. shuttle bus to the hotel.

When Quinn returned to his apartment to find that he was being evicted, he was also greeted by Eileen Conway, the Springs Logicon coordinator for Walsh Visa employees, who handed him a ticket back to Ireland dated the following morning.

Quinn feared the consequences of his abrupt departure, though he remained resolved in his reservations about the program. "If you return within six months, you have to pay the money back," he said.

The next morning, he was gone.

Problems uncommon

"Logicon feels this was an unfortunate incident," said Robert Powell, Walsh Visa project manager. "But the program is new and there are teething problems. It's not for everyone. Mr. Quinn apparently was not able to adjust to life in the United States, but the majority are enjoying their experience in Colorado and in the U.S. thus far."

According to the organization's literature, Logicon Inc. offers "systems support services for a variety of state and federal government agencies," as well as offering expertise in command, control, communications and intelligence, weapon systems and information systems.

Powell indicated that any grievances Walsh Visa employees might have with their employers were to be dealt with internally, but in the case of a departure like Mr. Quinn's, Logicon as program administrator was required to jump in.

"If a participant loses his position with cause, or quits his job without notification, we view them as being out of status in the program," he said. And he indicated that the swiftness of Logicon's response, in Quinn's case, was not unusual. "They are expected to return home, and usually that happens as quickly as possible, especially when there are housing issues."

Powell said there are currently 200 Walsh Visa employees from Northern Ireland in the United States, with 100 more arriving this weekend. Fifty to 60 of those will come to the Broadmoor.

Cindy Clark, director of human resources at the Broadmoor, said the incident last Friday does not indicate problems among the Walsh Visa participants.

"I really don't think it's a problem," she said. "We've talked with the Walsh Visa participants and assured them that they will be sent to all the training programs that the Broadmoor offers all its employees. They will have a lot of opportunities to move into different positions."

Regarding Quinn's sudden departure, Clark said that rude, belligerent behavior, threats and foul language were not tolerated by any employees at the hotel. She did not witness Friday's conflict, but was told that Quinn was hostile and made threats that required another human resources employee to call the "loss prevention department," better known as security guards.

"When an employee is terminated for cause," said Clark, "the Broadmoor has the right to evict them from Broadmoor-leased housing."

Special meeting

On Tuesday, May 30, a special meeting was held with Clark and all Walsh Visa employees at the hotel. Also in attendance were Chuck Casio of Logicon who flew in from the east coast, and the local Logicon representative, Eileen Conway.

"Hopefully things will change in the next week or two," said the unnamed Walsh Visa employee who spoke to the Independent following the meeting.

Conflicting stories regarding Patrick Quinn's departure were swirling about, he said. "Security says Patrick went in and was abusive, shouting and cursing at the girls, and he got the sack."

The issue of pay was apparently not raised at the meeting, and the participant confirmed that many of the Walsh Visa employees are happy with the program. As for himself, he said he wants more challenging office experience.

"It's just the odd few that's not happy," he said. "I said I wanted more practical experience, more than what I've got, and [Ms. Clark] said the Broadmoor wants that as well. [Those with complaints] want to be able to get a better job than what they were doing.

"They wanted to get it out in the open, so that we'd know they know there have been problems. They want to get them solved.

"I think they just want to forget about it."

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